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Qualifying analysis - Hamilton comes good when it matters

06 Jun 2015

It’s not often that you see Lewis Hamilton at the bottom of the timesheet, but that’s exactly where the Mercedes man found himself after a tricky FP3. Typically the world champion was able to rebound in style in qualifying, but others - including rival Sebastian Vettel - were hamstrung by technical issues. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday’s action in Montreal…

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 14.393s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 14.702s, P2

Hamilton had another tricky morning when, for a variety of reasons which included locking brakes, running wide and suffering the timing of the red flag, he never got representative laps on either the soft or the supersoft tyres. But he came through when it mattered to set his 44th career pole. Several times he and Rosberg matched sector times, but the German lost out when he set his first-run time on his worst set of supersofts, but was unable to improve on that on a better set on his second run. Nevertheless, Mercedes’ speed came as another blow to Ferrari, who had expected to close the qualifying gap here.

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 15.014s, P3
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 17.344s, P16, will start P18

Qualifying proved to be a bruising experience for Ferrari. The problems began when Vettel reported an MGU-H problem in Q1, and he only did two laps right at the end, neither of which was sufficient to better P16. Then he was hit with a five-place grid penalty and three penalty points for passing Merhi under red flags in FP3. Raikkonen was on strong form, but even with the three-token engine update the SF15-T was not a match for the Mercedes, and was only marginally quicker than the Williams and the Lotus. It’ll be particularly interesting to see how well the red cars go in race trim where they’ve traditionally been stronger.

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 15.102s, P4
Felipe Massa, 1m 17.886s, P17, will start P15

Williams looked much stronger than of late thanks to their recent upgrade, and Bottas was a strong contender for third place. Massa, however, was in trouble straight away in Q1, reporting a serious loss of power. Unusually, it turned out to be a turbocharger wastegate problem, something as rare these days as a spark plug failure. With a Mercedes-powered straight-line speed advantage and the benefit of DRS, however, the team expect him to be in a point-scoring position within 10 laps.

Romain Grosjean, 1m 15.194s, P5
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 15.329s, P6

Like Williams, Lotus took full advantage of Mercedes power to record their best qualifying result of the season, even though their drivers at one stage appeared to be racing one another down the pitlane. There’s no doubt that Canada’s high-speed straights play to the strengths of the E23 Hybrid and both Grosjean and Maldonado are determined to capitalise. The Frenchman is even eyeing the podium.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 15.614s, P7
Sergio Perez, 1m 16.338s, P10

Force India went well here last year, and the venerable VJM08 was again very quick. Hulkenberg was very happy with his best qualifying position of the season, but Perez struggled for tyre temperature and was actually quicker in Q2 than he was in Q3. Nevertheless, the team are in the hunt for a strong points finish.

Red Bull
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 16.079s, P8
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 16.114s, P9

Both drivers thought they got the best out of the RB11 package on a circuit where the handicap of the Renault engine was always going to be significant. But Ricciardo - the winner here last year - expressed his disappointment that the team aren’t propelling forward as quickly as they should be.

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz Jnr, 1m 16.042s, P1
Max Verstappen, 1m 16.245s, will start P19

Sainz said he had not expected to get through to Q3 on a track where Renault’s lack of power is so hurtful, but in the end he came within 0.36s of making it. Verstappen had his fifth engine of the season fitted for the start of the day, which added another 10 grid places to the five he dropped after his incident with Grosjean in Monaco. As if all that isn’t enough, because he can’t physically drop 15 placed from 12th, he also gets a 10-second time penalty for the race. All in all, though, Toro Rosso are expecting a difficult race.

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 16.262s, P13, will start P12
Felipe Nasr, 1m 16.620s, P15, will start P14

Ericsson felt the team had made good progress after FP1, but said he encountered traffic in Q2 which probably cost him his chance of getting into Q3. Nasr made a rare mistake in FP3. While negotiating the kink after the hairpin and trying to weave heat into his soft tyres, he lost control and spun head-first into the inside wall. He subsequently admitted that he had inadvertently lightened his C34’s aero load by accidentally activating his DRS… Amazingly, Sauber had him running in time for Q1, and he made it through to Q2. There a big flight over the kerbs in the final corner probably cost him his slight chance of making Q3.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 16.276s, P14, will start P13
Jenson Button, No time, allowed to start P20

Alonso only did the final 11 minutes of FP3 after his upgraded Honda engine had to be changed on Saturday morning, so the Spaniard was satisfied to bag himself 13th on the grid. Team mate Button had a much more difficult day, an ERS problem at the end of FP3 ruling him out of qualifying and forcing him to the back of the grid. All in all, an even tougher day than McLaren had been expecting.

Roberto Merhi, 1m 19.133s, P18, will start P16
Will Stevens, 1m 19.157s, P19, will start P17

The Marussia boys - both rookies at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - continued their intra-team battle in earnest on Saturday. Merhi built on his confidence from Monaco to pip his team mate, while Stevens admitted that he wasn’t 100 percent happy it his MR03B’s balance.